“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton
Humankind has been using art to express, create and communicate. An abstract doodle engraved on a shell by the human ancestors, Homo erectus, from present-day Indonesia can be claimed as the oldest found expression ‘Art’. The art lies within everyone. The way we express it may vary. In a dull lecture session or a conference, most of us might have drawn some doodle. This happens to us very casually without even being aware of it. But to produce a piece of art when we are fully aware isn’t very easy for most of us. This is because, somewhere along the journey of our lives, we have suppressed our inner creativity. The day to day pressure in the race to achieve our goals, we tend to curb our feelings, emotions, and we stop expressing ourselves.
All art forms are inherently therapeutic by nature. Art is meditative, and it energizes us. It soothes s person in stress, cheers us up when life seems tedious. Art expedites the natural healing process within us. In psychology, artistic methods are used to enhance mental health. The art forms are non-intrusive and often stimulate the subconscious mind bypassing the conscious cognitive mind. They are symbolic in nature and rejuvenate us.
The American Art Therapy Association characterizes art therapy as an approach to mental health that utilizes the process of creating art to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness.
Art therapy aims to make use of the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, find new ways to cope with stress. When art is used as therapy, it can include drawing, painting, colouring, sculpting, or collage. Analyzing their creation helps people to explore the issues that may be affecting their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Some research suggests that just being in the presence of art can contribute to promoting a healthy mind.
Who Should Try Art Therapy?
Anyone who feels overwhelmed or pressured by the hectic schedules of the world we live in should try art therapy. Creating art helps to slow down and explore the inner spheres of our minds.
Art therapy may be used to handle anxiety, depression, Post-traumatic stress, emotional difficulties, eating disorders, psychosocial coping difficulties, stress, learning difficulties etc.
How an art therapy session differs from the regular art class.
An art class focuses on teaching the techniques for creating a specific finished product of art. But when art is used as therapy, it is more about letting the inner experience fold out. Focus is on to create art that expresses the emotional experience rather than producing something that is an expression of the external world.
- Perception and self-perception: The act of creating art, helps to focus on the present, identify emotional responses and experience connections between emotion and body awareness.
- Personal integration: Expression of feelings in the art strengthens identity and self-image. It is easier to bring out conflicting emotions via art than through words. It helps to build a positive understanding of oneself.
- Emotion and impulse regulation: learns to modulate one’s emotional responses by trying to experiment with new reactions to complicated feelings. This helps in building a sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy.
- Behaviour change: learns to change ones behavioural responses through the process of artistic expression.
- Insight and comprehension: Helps to put emotions and non-verbal experiences into words and thereby experience an inner dialogue that shapes up a real idea about the self. The created piece of art allowed insight and comprehension of emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
Studies also show that creating art stimulates dopamine release. Dopamine is a chemical which is released in our brain when we do something pleasurable, making us feel happier.
Art is a relaxing and inspiring activity for many people. However, the particular benefits of artistic expression go much further than relaxation and enjoyment. No matter whether you choose to create it yourself or observe and enjoy it, art is a therapeutic, healthy activity that people actually like to do.